January 8, 2013

Augusta to consider banning sex offenders from living near schools, parks

City Council considers 750-foot, 500-foot limits at Thursday meeting

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- City Councilors on Thursday will discuss a proposal to prohibit sex offenders convicted of acts against children from living within 750 feet of schools, parks and other municipal property where children are the primary users.

Councilors are also considering an alternative that would set the distance at 500 feet.

City Manager William Bridgeo said city officials seem to favor the 750-foot distance -- the most restrictive the city could be under state law.

City councilors expressed interest in restricting where sex offenders moving into the city could live when Police Chief Robert Gregoire first presented information on the possibility last September.

There were 90 sex offenders who committed offenses against children under the age of 14 living in Augusta as of Nov. 30. Of those, 48 lived within 750 feet of a school, park or other municipal property where children are the primary users. The ordinance would also apply to private schools.

Any new city law would not be retroactive, so it would only apply to registered sex offenders who move to Augusta after such rules are passed. Sex offenders who already live in the city, even if they're within 750 feet of a school, would not be required to move.

The proposed ordinance would direct the city's planning office to prepare and maintain an official map of the city, showing prohibited locations for restricted sex offenders.

Resident sex offenders who violate the ordinance, after 30 days written notice from the city, could be fined up to $500 a day until they move.

Property owners who rent a residence within the prohibited areas to a restricted sex offender could also face sanctions, according to a draft of the ordinance.

Bridgeo said Gregoire, city attorney Stephen Langsdorf, and Acting Development Director Matt Nazar have worked to tweak the sex offender residency ordinance. The proposed restrictions are up for discussion by city councilors at their meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

* Discuss renewing a lease with the University of Maine at Augusta to allow the university to continue to use space at the city-owned Augusta Civic Center for the next five years. UMA leases about 16,000 square feet, and uses the auditorium for sporting events, paying the city about $85,000 a year.

* Discuss amendments to the city's sign ordinance.

* Discuss accepting $72,000 in federal Homeland Security funds to buy 10 laptop computers for $22,000, eight air packs for firefighters for $40,000, and training and emergency plans for schools for $9,000.

Keith Edwards -- 621-5647
kedwards@centralmaine.com

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